Evolution of Copyright Laws – A Complete Analysis

calendar10 Feb, 2023
timeReading Time: 5 Minutes
Copyright Laws

In India today, Copyright Laws hold a critical position. Copyright Laws are essential for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is a method of honouring and compensating the authors and owners of unique works of art, music and literature. It also encourages creators to produce and distribute their work. Copyright Laws make sure that the owner’s and creator’s rights are protected and that they have the ability to regulate how their works are used, shared and commercially exploited. Copyright Laws are essential for fostering and safeguarding innovation and creativity in India.

What do you mean by Copyright?

Copyright is a legal concept that offers protection to those who create and are owners of original works of art, music, literature, and software. They are granted sole authority over all uses, distribution and financial gains of their works. This implies that they have the authority to decide who can use their creations, how and for what purposes. The legal definition of Copyright is given in Section 14 of The Copyright Act, 1957. Copyright is only protected in a tangible form. Copyright gives the exclusive right to the owner of the Copyright to reproduce the copyrighted work in any form; its performance rights as well as adaptation rights and translation rights of the copyrighted work.

The Copyright is a type of appreciation and acknowledgement for all the hard work and effort it takes to create something unique and creative. Creators may be assured that their works will be protected and that they will be able to profit from their creations. Copyright is a powerful tool that supports innovation and creativity by defending the rights of those who create and possess creative work. It’s an essential component of the modern world and is necessary to guarantee an honest and open market for artistic products.

Origin of Copyright Laws

  • Statue of Anne

The origin of copyright laws can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where the concept of intellectual property was recognized and protected. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the Statue of Anne in 1710 that modern copyright law was established. In England, the Statue of Anne was passed, giving writers and publishers exclusive rights to print and sell their work for a limited period of time. This was a significant shift from the old system, which depended on the Crown and the Church controlling the printing press; this was a significant change.

The Statue of Anne established the first legal framework for modern copyright laws by recognizing the rights of authors and other creators. The Copyright Act, 1790 in the United States was one example of legislation based on the Statue of Anne that progressively spread to other nations as well. However, copyright laws were coordinated at an international level up in the 19th century.

  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary & Artistic Works of 1886

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary & Artistic Works, which was founded in 1886, was a critical event in the history of Copyright. The Berne Convention was the first international agreement to establish standard guidelines for copyright enforcement and protection in various nations. It introduced the idea of “national treatment”, which states that workers from one country should enjoy the same level of protection in another country as they would receive in their country of origin.

  • Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms & Broadcasting Organizations

A number of nations have ratified the Rome Convention, also called the international convention for Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms & Broadcasting Organizations, which offers protection to these groups. Rome convention was accepted in 1961 and went into force in 1964. The Rome Convention seeks to standardize how artists, phonogram producers, and broadcasting organizations are protected throughout signatory nations. It defines the minimum standard of protection for these rights and stipulates that protection in the territories of the signatory nations will be reciprocally recognized.

  • The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of the World Trade Organization (WTO)[1] established the basic requirements for the protection and enforcement of copyrights and related rights in the context of international trade. The concept of Copyright is included in Article 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of the TRIPS Agreement. TRIPS also establishes guidelines for the security of digital works protected by copyright protection and enforcement in the context of global trade, assisting in balancing the interests of copyright owners and copyright work users and fostering the free movement of ideas and information.

Early Copyright Laws in India 

The first legislation, the Indian copyright act of 1914, was introduced during the British Colonial Era, which is where the history of copyright law in India began. This law, which was modeled after the British Copyright Act of 1911, gave artistic, musical, and literature works protection for a limited period of time. However, the protection reach was constrained and needed to cover sound or cinematographic works.

During this period, the primary purpose was to benefit British publishers and authors, rather than serving the interests of Indian innovators and artists. The law was primarily utilized to prevent the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of foreign works. Despite these restrictions, the Indian Copyright Act of 1914 laid the foundation for the development of the modern copyright system in India. This legislation was modified over time to increase protection for creators and broaden the application of copyright law to include new forms of expressions. 

Evolution of Copyright Laws in India 

Since its inception, the Indian copyright Act has made several amendments to keep pace with the changing technological and legal landscape. The copyright act was amended in the years 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994, 1999 and 2012. The amendment of 1983 expanded the definition of literary and artistic works to include computer software. The concept of author’s moral rights was introduced in the amendment of the year 1994 along with, the right of communication to the public which further extended the rights to the internet. Amendment of the year 1999 extended the protection term of performer’s right from twenty-five years to fifty years. The amendments in the year 2012 made the copyright act complaint with the internet treaties, which are the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and phonograms treaty. This amendment also stated that now the licenses can only be granted by the copyright societies. Many other amendments were also made along with these.

Current state of Copyright Laws in India 

Recent years have seen a considerable change in copyright laws, especially with the rise of digital technologies. As a result, efforts have been made to strike a compromise between the rights of the copyright holder and the public rights. The implementation of international treaties aiming at harmonizing copyright laws across different nations, the extension of fair use exceptions, and the introduction of new technologies for copyrighted work protection are some recent changes made in copyright law.

Copyright legislation has grown more crucial in the digital age for protecting creative works and making sure that their creators are fairly compensated. The convenience of copying and sharing digital content has also made it simple to share works without permission. A growing need for efficient enforcement tools to prevent copyright infringement has resulted from this.


Copyright is currently in a complicated and dynamic state. While copyright law guarantees that creator’s rights are upheld and offers crucial protection for them, it nevertheless faces difficulties in the digital era. The growth of the internet & digital media has opened up new possibilities for the distribution of works protected by Copyright, but it also has caused difficulties for the enforcement of the law. A crucial problem in the field of copyright laws is how to strike a balance. The copyright law is far from perfect as it is now, and that more work has to be done in order for it to continue to fulfil its intended function in the twenty-first century. We must constantly review and improve our approach to Copyright in order to make sure it continues to be applicable and efficient in the years to come.

Read our Article:What Type Of Works Protected By Copyright In India?

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